JD Wetherspoon announced yesterday that it would be closing all of its social media channels with immediate affect. Chairman, Tim Martin, told the BBC that he doesn’t “believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever” while citing that people are “wasting their time” on social media.
An interesting take from the Chairman and one which sparked national news coverage across print, radio and television. On last night’s evening news, one television channel covered the story by highlighting a recent photo tweeted by Wetherspoon’s pointing out that it only got three retweets. Considering it was a two minute news story, this seemed like a slightly strange angle.
You can see the tweet in question below – it’s not the worst tweet in the world – granted, it’s not very exciting but why would anyone actually retweet this photo? It’s just a basic photo of a Wetherspoons dinner. There’s no incentive to share it but it’s hardly the worst tweet a brand has ever sent out, is it? Banal, yes, but newsworthy? Not even slightly. So why this was featured, who knows.
It gives you an idea of how JD Wetherspoon operated their social media accounts, though. They updated their main account sporadically with mundane content. They also had accounts for each of their 900 bars spread across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. A scattered, inconsistent approach.
Social media is such a powerful tool and can bring great attention to those who have no other medium to get their message across. It’s incredibly useful for small bars, breweries and venues to disseminate information as they simply don’t have the clout to get exposure otherwise.
While social media has become a powerful leveller in terms of giving the little guy a voice, it can be tougher to find a place for it when you’re already a massive company such as JD Wetherspoon. You’ve got so much going on, split across so many pubs, where do you even start? It’s not easy but there are loads of massive companies who manage it expertly.
Take Domino’s Pizza for example, they have 240k followers who they regularly interact with, running competitions, sharing offers and responding to incoming tweets often within minutes. It’s a two way communications tool and they’ve hit the sweet spot between marketing and customer service.
There’s been speculation as to why JD Wetherspoon closed their accounts, with rumours they panicked over misuse of mailing lists but regardless of the reason, it’s not surprising they’re willing to knock social media on the head – they don’t even have music in their pubs because it allows them to sell booze cheaper – can we really be surprised they don’t want to invest the time and money in social media on the scale required to make it worthwhile for them?
JD Wetherspoon’s are so ingrained in British pub culture, they’ll be fine without social media – you know what you’re getting no matter which pub or city you’re in. It’s that consistency that’s made them a go-to for their regular customers. It’s surprising they don’t see the benefits in providing the same consistency when it comes to social media but removing their presence in its recent form will have no effect on their business because they gave people no reason to interact with them there in the first place.
In fact, in terms of marketing, they’ve gained significantly more exposure by deleting their accounts than they would’ve by continuing to use them in the manner they were. Their decision has been discussed on national news outlets in print and television and they achieved it by deleting a few social media accounts with relatively limited followings – 44k on Twitter and just over 110k on Facebook.
Jim Waterson, the Guardian’s Media Editor summed it up best:-
Sky News just sent a nationwide breaking news push alert on JD Wetherspoon shutting down a barely active Twitter account with fewer followers than failing sixth division football club York City. pic.twitter.com/GVZqmPVRPb
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) April 16, 2018
So for JD Wetherspoon, in the short term, it’s probably a good idea – they’ve gotten rid of some marketing channels that were only half-heartedly updated and received huge press coverage as a result.
Long term though, maybe they should’ve invested more in their social media strategy, rather than dismissing it entirely.
Telling your customers that communicating with them is a waste of time is never a good look, even if they’ll overlook it for a cheap pint and a rather unforgettable, but entirely satisfactory, plate of fish and chips (even if it did only get three retweets).